Lane Kiffin‘s debut at Florida Atlantic lasted nearly six hours, featured three lightning delays and ended with almost no one left in the stands.
It was unforgettable.
It was also unsuccessful.
Zach Abey ran for 235 yards and two touchdowns, and Navy spoiled the start of Kiffin’s era at FAU by topping the Owls 42-19 in a bizarre game that ended at 1:47 a.m. Saturday. It took more than three hours to play the fourth quarter with the delays — and when the game ended, even the cheerleaders were long gone and cleaning crews were already at work inside the stadium.
Navy scored five touchdowns on a six-possession span at one point, turning what was a brief 10-7 FAU lead into a rout. And even though the game seemed decided by the time weather interrupted play, Kiffin wouldn’t concede — so the teams waited it out.
“I don’t know any other way to do it,” Kiffin said. “I thought we were still going to win. … I would never do anything different, and I would never walk into the locker room with the players and tell them we would do it different.”
Joshua Walker rushed for two scores for Navy (1-0). Abey also threw for a touchdown for the Midshipmen, who outgained the Owls 526-326.
Daniel Parr threw a 95-yard touchdown pass to Willie Wright for FAU (0-1), a play that gave the Owls a brief lead in the second quarter. Parr finished 19 of 30 for 281 yards and two touchdowns, the other being a 62-yarder to DeAndre McNeal.
Lightning started at the end of the third quarter, causing what was initially a 59-minute delay. Play resumed — for all of 67 seconds, with both teams getting a touchdown in that span before heading back to their respective locker rooms. The teams then returned for a warmup around 12:10 a.m., before being told to leave the field moments later.
The game restarted for the final time at 1:20 a.m. The announced attendance for Kiffin’s debut was 28,481, the third-largest crowd in FAU history. All but a few were long gone when it ended.
“We were hunkered down,” Kiffin said. “We were staying for the long haul. That’s just how we are. That’s how our program is. That’s how we want our players to think. If you love football, why wouldn’t you want to keep playing?”
It was a most unceremonious end to Kiffin’s long-awaited debut.
Kiffin got off the team bus about two hours before kickoff wearing a tan suit, sunglasses and having the headphones in his ears blaring something from the iPhone he carried. Not long afterward, he tweeted a photo of a box holding new sneakers — Adidas’ Yeezy Boost 350, size 12, part of the brand’s collaboration with Kanye West, hence Kiffin’s usage of the hashtag “thxkanye.”
The former Tennessee, USC and Oakland Raiders head coach — most recently the Alabama offensive coordinator — had his usual look on the field: white windbreaker and matching visor. And when Wright took off down the left sideline for what became the longest play in FAU history, Kiffin ran in the opposite direction in celebration.
The Owls didn’t have much else to enjoy over the rest of a long, long night.
Navy: The Midshipmen improved to 6-4 in openers under coach Ken Niumatalolo. … Navy ran 68 rushing plays, as opposed to 10 passes. … Abey completed only three throws, and still finished with 110 passing yards. … Navy held the ball for 40 of the game’s 60 minutes and went 9 for 17 on third downs.
Florida Atlantic: The Owls set school records with both the 95-yard TD pass and Greg Joseph‘s 54-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. … The Owls had only 40 rushing yards, though they lost 39 on plays that went down as team rushes following bad snaps.
AND YOU ARE?
Monte Kiffin — Lane’s father and part of the FAU staff — arrived at the press level about 15 minutes before kickoff and was asked by a security guard for his credential as he left the elevator. The security guard quickly relented when told who he was, and waved him through.
Navy: Tulane comes in on Sept. 9 for Navy’s home opener.
Florida Atlantic: The Owls visit No. 9 Wisconsin on Sept. 9.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.